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Music and Luxury in a Round Barn

The Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont, is a hilltop haven of warm hospitality, luxurious lodgings and -- in the summer -- grand opera.

Rooms at The Round Barn Farm are deliciously different, from carved furniture and Victorian frills to Adirondack rustic to sleek curving lines of cast-iron beds. Never going too far with any theme, the decor radiates good taste in each different style.

A room named Dana attracted us immediately, with its engaging juxtaposition of white draperies descending from a ring over a bed whose coverlet draped to a finish of white satin fringe. But the wrought-iron bed itself parried the formal hangings with its sleek contemporary asymmetrical curves. Both were nicely set off against the unfinished woods of rough-hewn beams and wallpaper of white-on-white damask.

I didn’t need to see the two cushy chairs with reading lamps at either side of the gas fireplace before choosing this as home. The next morning we opened our inside shutters to see a snow-covered hillside rising from the inn’s back yard.

Each room has some special attraction – a stunning hand-crafted bed, a cozy setting in the old farmhouse, a soaring cathedral ceiling in the renovated former carriage house. Rooms in the original house have been updated to modern sensibilities without losing their charm.

On the bedside stand was a complete book of local activities, walks, sports, restaurants and information on the life story of the round barn that stood just beyond the carriage sheds. We learned from our bedtime reading that it is one of only five left in Vermont, built in 1910 on a design created by the Shakers. The concept was elegantly simple, a space where a dairy herd could be fed, milked and herded in and out with a minimum of labor and a maximum of efficiency. And like everything the Shakers designed, with classic simplicity and form-follows-function elegance. The barn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the late afternoon, guests are invited to sit by the fire in the large parlor, helping themselves to tea or coffee, with sweets and savories from the tea table – perhaps delectable cookies and a salad of cubed roasted chicken and grapes, with French bread. Menus for all the local restaurants are available for informed decision-making, and a little box holds multiple copies of printed directions from the inn to each of them.

Fine food is at the heart of the inn, which shows clearly in their multi-course breakfasts, and in the meals they serve at weddings and other special events, based as much as possible on local ingredients – a lot of them grown right in the farm’s own certified organic gardens.

We were there in the winter, and headed for the two ski mountains close by. The Round Barn Farm is a few miles from Sugarbush and from Mad River Glen (“Ski it if You Can” is their slogan) ski areas. All around the inn are trails for snowshoeing, and snowshoes are complimentary for guests, who also have free use of the cross-country ski center just up the hill.

We loved the inn’s cozy atmosphere in the winter, but we also plan to return in June for the opera festival that fills the first three weeks of the month. Guests are treated to open rehearsals throughout any stage of the production, and can meet the lead singers informally during their stay. Packages include lodging, opera tickets for the performances in the nearby Barre Opera House and a lunch with the performers.

The June Green Mountain Opera Festival is only one of the arts events held in the Round Barn. A juried art show held during foliage season in late September and early October is in its 20th year there, and a photography show fills the barn in August.

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